For Such a Time as This
Esther 2: 5-11; 17-18
5 At that time there was a Jewish man in the fortress of Susa whose name was Mordecai son of Jair. He was from the tribe of Benjamin and was a descendant of Kish and Shimei. 6 His family had been among those who, with King Jehoiachin of Judah, had been exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar. 7 This man had a very beautiful and lovely young cousin, Hadassah, who was also called Esther. When her father and mother died, Mordecai adopted her into his family and raised her as his own daughter.
8 As a result of the king’s decree, Esther, along with many other young women, was brought to the king’s harem at the fortress of Susa and placed in Hegai’s care. 9 Hegai was very impressed with Esther and treated her kindly. He quickly ordered a special menu for her and provided her with beauty treatments. He also assigned her seven maids specially chosen from the king’s palace, and he moved her and her maids into the best place in the harem.
10 Esther had not told anyone of her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had directed her not to do so. 11 Every day Mordecai would take a walk near the courtyard of the harem to find out about Esther and what was happening to her.
17 Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women and she won his favour and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. 18 And the king gave a great banquet, Esther’s banquet, for all his nobles and officials. He proclaimed a holiday throughout the provinces and distributed gifts with royal liberality.
Do you know the name of a Jewish man in the Bible who…
- Was taken prisoner to a foreign land against his will
- Was wrongly accused and looked certain to be put to death
- Advised the king and averted a disaster
- Became second in command over the land?
You may be thinking of Joseph… but this person is Mordecai
His life and experiences demonstrate clearly that even when circumstances are bleak and the situation is grim, we can and must believe that God has ultimate control.
As you look back over life, there will be times when it was hard to see beyond the gloom… When it seemed that you were walking through a dark tunnel with little prospect of seeing the light again
At such times, we do well to consider Corrie Ten Boon’s comment:
- There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still…
And she should know after all she and her family suffered!
In Isaiah 45 v 3, we read a rather mysterious promise… God will give us treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places (secret riches)
Not treasures of light… but treasures of darkness
A film (movie) was made in the 1960s called: What’s it all about, Alfie?
- What is life all about? Why do we experience heartache and struggles?
- Why does God allow us to stumble… go through tunnels… and sink into the mire?
These are questions that ALL of us have to face at some time in our lives…and when they come we need to be sure that we are already walking in step with the Spirit of Christ, so that we can respond in faith and in godly hope …not superstition or “hope for the best!”
THE STORY OF ESTHER AND MORDECAI is one of the most fascinating in the Bible…
The Book does not contain the word ‘God’… yet His presence and purposes saturate every page
- It contains a powerful reminder that when there seems to be no way through a situation, God is one step in front of us, leading the way… right alongside us, lest we stumble … and living within us by His Spirit to comfort, guide, rebuke and inspire.
The people of Israel and Judah had been scattered
- Some were in Babylon and others, further east in Persia (Iraq/Iran)
- Among those in Persia were Hadassah and her older cousin, Mordecai, in about 480BC
Hadassah had already experienced tragedy in her life…her mum and dad had both died… or perhaps been killed in the war
- Her cousin, Mordecai, had ‘adopted’ her and brought her up
- Now they were both in exile in Susa, far from home
Mordecai was almost certainly a well-educated and influential man
- He appears to have been respected by the people of Susa for he had access to the king’s courtyard
- He was not a slave and moved about freely… This fact was proved to be hugely significant in the events that followed!
THE EPISODE INVOLVING KING XERXES (Ahasuerus) and QUEEN VASHTI is a fascinating study about human behaviour!
- King Xerxes was so powerful that he had an ‘open day’ for all the leaders in the country to view his possessions and conquests… It lasted for six months!
Then they had a great feast…one for the boys and one for girls!
Xerxes and Queen Vashti were probably drunk and light-headed when Xerxes called for his queen… and she refused to come!
- She was probably having a great time on her ‘girly night out’ and didn’t want to leave the party, get dressed up and ogled at by a load of inebriated, lustful men… and who can blame her?
Xerxes is angry and humiliated… Pride can be a problem for men!
But we’re reminded (Proverbs 18:12) that ‘humility comes before honour’
- The king consults with his advisers and nobles, as to what to do… the Queen ought to be executed!
- Then Memucan… who seems to have been the top man in court… advises that the king pass a law banning Vashti from entering his presence ever again
King Xerxes is pleased…not least because it saves him from putting to death a woman whom he probably loved…and also saved face
Memucan was a genuinely wise man…how much we need wisdom today!
- He knew that the king and queen were the worse for wear… and he wanted to avoid unnecessary bloodshed
Rules and regulations are necessary in society but they can also be a stumbling block and cause decent people to suffer if they ride roughshod over moral principle … as Christians are presently discovering in many ways throughout the world
TIME PASSES…the guests go home… life returns to normal
- The king is busy sorting out a six-month backlog of decisions
- Then one day he goes to call for Vashti and remembers the law he passed… that cannot be revoked
ACT IN HASTE… REPENT AT LEISURE!
It seems that he misses Vashti…but…there is no reversing the situation (‘no use crying over spilt milk’), so he sets about finding another queen…
- There’s a ‘nation-wide beauty contest’
- The winners are brought to Susa
- I imagine that there was great interest among local young men!
One of the “winners” is Hadassah (a Hebrew name) who lives locally with Mordecai… and is chosen for the king’s harem
She is given the Persian name Esther, meaning ‘myrtle’ or ‘star’
- The king finds her both beautiful and enchanting
- He begins to line her up as the new queen in place of Vashti
One minute, Esther is a nobody … the next minute, a queen-in-waiting
God is full of surprises! He can turn around situations in the blink of an eye
Mordecai advises Esther not to reveal the fact that she is a Jewess
- The Jews were just one of many nations in captivity in Babylon… but Mordecai knew the persecution that the Jews had suffered
“Best to keep a low profile!”
There’s a time to be discrete and a time to be bold! This particular time called for discretion…but things would soon change!
THERE FOLLOWED A YEAR-LONG ENGAGEMENT…
- Esther has to be made as beautiful as possible! (A whole year!)
YET ANOTHER GREAT PARTY is followed by the official wedding
THEN THINGS REALLY BEGIN TO HOT UP!
One of the nations that had clashed constantly with Israel down the years were the Agagites or Amalekites
- They were a nomadic nation living in what today we would call Sinai … descendants of Esau
- They had been the first to attack the Israelites when they crossed the Jordan
- God had told King Saul to eliminate them…but he let some of them go and they later became a thorn in the flesh for King David
God’s ways sometimes appear illogical or even unjust… but He sees the end from the beginning… We only see the immediate situation
SO THERE WAS NO LOVE LOST between ISRAEL and the AMALEKITES!
- Little wonder that Mordecai thought it best for Esther to remain silent
- And when a certain Haman the Amalekite arrives on the scene and is favoured by the king, Mordecai is even more fearful for Esther’s welfare
Haman’s family must also have been captured and brought to Persia, now he had gained the position of Prime Minister (rather like Joseph in Egypt many years before)
However, a little time before this, Mordecai overhears two of the king’s captains plotting to overthrow the king and seize power
- Mordecai is able to get word to Esther
- She warns the king and the plotters are arrested and hanged
Importantly, the details of the event are recorded in the king’s presence… this fact will become very significant in due course
Behind the scenes, God is at work!
MORDECAI AND HAMAN ARE IN DIRECT OPPOSITION
- Whereas the officials all pay homage to Haman, Mordecai refuses to bow the knee to his sworn enemy
But Haman learns that Mordecai is a Jew… and decides to get rid of him… then he has a better idea… He will wipe out the whole Jewish people
DOES THIS SOUND FAMILIAR, even today?
Mordecai knows that Haman has the power to have him executed or assassinated… so why and how is he so courageous?
- Well, there comes a time in life when we all have to draw the line
Thus far, no further
- Remember the episode that happened some years earlier in Babylon, when Shadrach, Meshac and Abednego refused to bow the knee to the golden idol (in Daniel 3)…
No doubt, MORDECAI knew about their bravery and took courage from their example
We may think that nobody is influenced by our lives…
- That nobody notices or cares
- But every life makes an impact one way or another!
- We leave our fingerprints everywhere … through our words, actions, reactions, decisions… love for others
- The perfume (or stale smoke) of our lives affects people now and lingers long after we’ve gone
So where was God during the difficult times that Esther and Mordecai were experiencing?
He was at work… silently and powerfully.
And as we shall discover in Part 2 of this mini-series about Esther & Mordecai, those who put their trust in God will never be ashamed or disappointed, regardless of circumstances or events.